The leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, is to step down as leader by 2013, following the party's poor performance at the recent Westminster and local elections.

Mr Griffin stood as a candidate for MP in the east London constituency of Barking and had real hopes of taking the seat. However Mr Griffin came a distant third behind the Labour and Conservative candidates.

Perhaps of greater significance was the BNP's routing in the local elections. At the previous local elections BNP candidates swept the board where they stood and gained 12 seats on the local council of Barking and Dagenham, making them the official opposition.

In their election literature in the borough the party spoke openly of what it would do when it gained control of the council.

However the party received what it called a "bloody nose" and lost all of its 12 seats, leaving Labour as the only party in the 51-member council. Despite this the party did see the number of people voting for it nationwide increase 1.8 per cent 514,800.

Mr Griffin has led the party for 15 years and last year became BNP's first Member of the European Parliament, together with Andrew Brons, earning him a controversial place on the BBC's Question Time programme last year.

Mr Griffin said that while he would seek to be re-elected as an MEP he had been leader for "long enough" and would seek to "make way for a younger person".

He added that the reason for the delay in his departure would be so that he could put the last "building blocks" into the BNP's administrative and political machine.

"This is going to take at least 18 months to implement and after that I intend to hand the party over to someone who will be able to drive support up to where it can be a serious contender for power," he said.

"I then intend to help the other European nationalist parties to achieve the level of sophistication which the BNP has been able to build up, because a victory for any one of these parties is a victory to all of us."